We met long before I bought her.
While living in New York, I’d visit Oregon and Avery, my friend since 7th grade, would generously lend me her aqua-blue Miata to drive around Portland.
Originally her grandfather’s retirement purchase, he had left it to her, and it was perfect for solo commutes and weekend rock climbing excursions.
When I finally decided to move back to the West Coast, she had inherited a van from her grandmother, and knew her future family plans would require a back seat. In her second most momentous act of motherhood, she sold the Miata to me.
I hadn’t owned a car in 14 years, relying on the web of subways and buses and trains and taxis to port me around the New York metropolitan area. I loved not owning a car.
In college, I drove inexpensive but reliable cars. I tasted the freedom of my own ride, but not yet the absolute delight of loving my car.
In 2005, five years into my Brooklyn life, my friend Tina bought her Jeep. Having a car in New York is a game changer. It transformed our crew’s summer. We got to Long Beach in half the time and could flirt with the guys at Sutton Place without fretting about the LIRR schedule. We’d drive to what was then the only Target in town, all the way in Queens Plaza. We’d summon her to pick us up in Williamsburg to go up to the beer garden in Astoria, just because we could.
Back in Portland, returning to the car owner life was a slight speed bump. What I saved in rent moving to a smaller city was pretty much spent on insurance and maintenance. I vowed to never be that person who talks about gas prices or drives an extra mile to save 10 cents a gallon. That flew out the window.
What I didn’t anticipate was the unfettered joy that my Miata gives me. Can one be in love with an inanimate object? Every time I spot her returning to the parking lot, I smile like I’m seeing a new crush.
I joined the Mt. Hood Miata Club. I learned that my car is not aqua; it is crystal blue metallic, a limited edition option in 2001, thank you very much.
I learned the secret Miata owner’s salute, the “Miata wave,” or flashing the headlights when two Miatas cross each other in opposite lanes. People actually do this! Best secret club ever.
I commute with the top down on crisp mornings just to smell the pine trees. I take mini road trips and blast music that I’d never play in front of other people. I sing at top volume.
My car is fun. It’s cute. It makes people smile. People want to ride in it. Old men ask about it. Children love it.
Children can’t ride in it. With only two seats, she is the ultimate expression of my childfree life. It’s a rite of passage for my nephews to become old/tall enough to ride in the passenger seat. It’s a special Auntie Ara date to ride around Portland with the top down, sunglasses on, blasting hip hop (uncensored – don’t tell mom).
I’m pretty sure that even animals are attracted to the Miata. (Except my pet rabbit, who loathes vehicular transport.) My sister’s pomeranian runs to it and jumps in whenever I try to leave her house. At Wildlife Safari, where you can drive through the animal preserve, animals are not afraid to approach it. Just ask the emu who tapped relentlessly on my window.
I’ve declared this the summer of road trips. This month, my Miata and I will ride down the Oregon Coast, into the surprisingly empty highways of far-northern California, through the majestic redwoods that dwarf her comically.
Once, I heard a hater dismiss Miatas as the “affordable sportscar.” This did not insult. How can anyone diminish a thing that brings so much happiness? It’s not about how much a car costs; it’s the joy of the journey.
If you have the opportunity, get a car you love. The returns are immeasurable. And if it’s a Miata, take the top down often and don’t forget the wave.